Part 2 of my “So you want to…” series is about going Paleo.
I am going to talk a bit about what it is and a bit about what it is not. I am not a doctor or an expert, this is my take on Paleo, and what I believe is a great method for going this direction with your diet.
There is a misconception that eating Paleo is just about eating meat and veggies. There is a comparison that some people make between Paleo and Atkins that really is not a fair comparison. So for starters, Paleo is NOT Atkins. Now that I got that off my chest, let’s move on with what the basic premise of what this diet is. The word diet always draws up ideas of a temporary fix. I am talking about a diet that is long-term. Meaning, what you eat on a regular basis. Everyone is on a diet, but what does yours look like?
Paleo is about going back to eating foods in their whole forms as much as possible. Some call this the caveman diet, it also has several other monikers that describe it in this fashion. The word Paleo itself denotes a “Paleolithic” era. Most proponents of Paleo tell you to eat only organic foods. My only problem with this recommendation is that many people won’t even try it because they get hung up on this 1 thing. Organic foods are more expensive than non-organic, and I understand that some budgets will not allow for only organic food.
My take on this recommendation is eat organic when possible, otherwise eat unprocessed whole foods.
I am not going to make a list of things you cannot eat. I am going to have you ask a few questions about your food before you make your food choices. Do your research, and formulate your own plan.
1. For starters, read through my first post in this series: So you want to give up wheat. I believe that 30 days of a wheat free existence is critical before even thinking about Paleo. I am in some ways an all or nothing person, but if you eat any amount of wheat on a regular basis, I believe that going Paleo should be a 2-step process and by removing this addictive grain first, you will be set-up for overall success. Once you have been wheat free for 30 days or more, you are ready to tackle a 30-day Paleo Challenge.
2. Survey. Now that you’ve been wheat free for a month, look at your cabinets again. Pull out any and all grains and grain containing products. Corn, rice, wheat, oats, barley, and quinoa (some people allow quinoa in a Paleo diet and some do not, it is a seed, not a grain, but for the purpose of a 30-day Paleo challenge, you can live without it). Pull out all dairy. (milk, cheese, icecream, creamer, etc.). Pull out all beans and legumes (yes, your peanut butter needs to come out too). Pull out all sugar. Are your cabinets bare? I hope not. If you’ve been wheat free for 30 days as I suggested above, what modifications have you made to your diet? What do your normal meals look like right now?
3. Time to Modify! Eating Paleo can be a bit tricky. There are habits that you have that you won’t even realize until you start to drastically change the way you eat. Wheat free and Paleo require us to rewire our brains in some ways to realize that maybe some things are not beneficial to our overall health. Look at some of your favorite recipes and ask yourself if there is any way you can modify it for a Paleo diet. Can you remove the grains, dairy, etc, and be able to substitute it in a way that follows the basic guidelines below?
4. 3 Questions to ask before you buy anything to eat on Paleo:
- Did it come from an animal?
- Is it a fruit or vegetable?
- Is it a nut or seed?
If the answer is yes to any of the 3 questions, it is safe to eat on a Paleo “diet”. A word of caution on processed meats. Most proponents of Paleo say to avoid them completely. Paleo is about eating high quality foods that are as close to natural as possible. Processed meats often contain fillers, or are processed using wheat or other grains. If you can find cured or processed meats that are free of fillers, and are processed using very natural means (i.e. no nitrates, and using salt, but no sugar). My thought here is to proceed with caution, eat these items sparingly. While bacon can be ok, it is probably not the best thing to eat all day long.
5. How do I plan my meals? If you have never eaten Paleo, or are used to eating a lot of grains, this part takes a bit more planning and prepping than before. Don’t worry though. Once you get the hang of it, you can have delicious Paleo meals cooked and ready in 30 minutes or less. Trust me, I work full-time, run a small business, volunteer, and spend time with my family. It can be done. Start with veggies, and add from there. Think that half of your plate should be full of veggies, then include a meat and maybe a fruit if you would like. If you really need some help in this area, there are several services that offer meal planning for you. You pay a monthly subscription and they send you meal plans with shopping lists and more.
Two of my favorite places for recipes, that also offer meal plans, are:
6. Get started! Once you’ve surveyed, planned and prepared, it’s time to get started. Give yourself a good 30 days or more, and slowly start reintroducing certain items to see if they affect your health and/or weight loss efforts. Get your family on board with your plan and enlist them to help you as much as possible. If you have kids, make your new meals a fun experience for everyone. Kids love to be involved, and are much more open to new things if you make it an exciting new thing.
Let me know what your questions are. I am still learning about this topic, and Paleo is a lifestyle that you make work for you. My brand of Paleo may not look exactly like yours, and so it’s hard to give you more specifics. You’ve got to play around with it to see how you can make it work for your life, all while staying within the basic guidelines. Life is much more enjoyable when food is no longer an issue, and you can just eat and not worry about the ill effects it may have. Come join me on my 30-day Paleo challenge!
Have a blessed day!